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What to know

What really puts shudders down students’ spines is having to write application essays. Aside from taking admissions tests, there is nothing about which they fear or fret more. Pleadingly, they ask me, “What should I write about? What are admissions people looking for?”

Way before application essays are due, you can do something quite useful to lay the groundwork for coming up with essay themes, topics and content. An adMISSION POSSIBLE secret weapon for writing one-of-a-kind, compelling essays is to identify and write down personal stories and anecdotes about yourself, starting when you were very young and going through to the present.

•  Personal stories are powerful resources for essays, as no one else will have ones exactly like yours.

•  The content of personal stories can be anything:  favorite toys, games; personality characteristics, special talents, special people, interesting summer activities, etc.

•  Personal stories can be used by you for essay content, but can also be given to people writing letters of recommendation as examples of some of your personal characteristics.

•  Often it is the message of the story, not necessarily the story itself, that is important.

•  The purpose of a college essay is for the admissions reader to discover something about you that is not covered in the application, as well as take not of your writing skills.


What to know

Parents and students alike can be involved in the process of remembering and writing student stories and anecdotes.


What to know

Freshman, sophomore, junior and senior Years
Anytime during high school is a good time to jot down ideas, stories, and memories, as well as recall favorite childhood sayings. Keep your thoughts in a folder, a journal, on your computer, or PDA/iPhone/Blackberry.


When to do it

Many people think that anecdotes that students use in their essays must have taken place during their high school years. Not true! Stories that go way back to when your children were very young are often the most original and telling. Therefore, you may be the best source of ideas for brainstorming childhood tales, family legends, and humorous accounts. Not only is this useful for the student, but it’s also great fun.

by Marjorie Hansen Shaevitz
Excerpted from adMISSION POSSIBLE® (Sourcebooks, Inc, April 2012)

If you want to know more about this and other admissions topics, read
Getting into the Best Colleges for you
. Order it here!



adMISSION POSSIBLE® is committed to every student having access to the best college admissions advice available free
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